Jingle All The Way

on November 22, 1996 by Wade Major
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   A zany, cartoonish romp in the proud tradition of such concept-driven holiday comedies as John Hughes' "Plains, Trains & Automobiles" and the Hughes/Chris Columbus collaboration "Home Alone," "Jingle All the Way" won't win any awards for believability, but as purely escapist family entertainment on a grand scale it's a tough act to beat.
   Essentially little more than a parade of slapstick set pieces, each more outrageous than the last, "Jingle All the Way" stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as Howard Langston, a loving but neglectful Minneapolis father whose devotion is put to the test when he has to find his little boy (Jake Lloyd) a "Turboman" action figure on Christmas Eve. Unfortunately, Turboman is the hottest toy in history, pursued like a plastic grail by raging mobs of panicked parents, including a borderline-lunatic mail carrier named Myron (Sinbad) who continually appears from nowhere to foil Howard's plans at every turn. With time running out, the two desperate fathers run a seemingly never-ending gauntlet of celebrity cameos and wacky obstacles, upping the ante until the irresistibly ridiculous grand finale throws all remaining vestiges of realism to the wind.
   Aided by an excellent supporting cast, including Rita Wilson as Howard's wife and Phil Hartman as his overly libidinous neighbor, the Schwarzenegger/Sinbad pairing is an inspired one, each performer so perfectly complementing the other that future reunions, should the film prove a success, seem all but certain. Although director Brian Levant (recovering from the leaden "The Flintstones") deserves ample due for his able helming of yet another technically challenging project, it is producer Chris Columbus' trademark blend of shameless sentiment and madcap wackiness that is most evident throughout, a mantle he appears to have inherited from his "Home Alone" mentor, John Hughes. Adults, however, are more likely to view the film as a purely cathartic satire of last-minute shopping madness, an experience so loathsome it's a wonder the filmmakers were able to extract so much humor from it in the first place. Starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sinbad, Rita Wilson and Phil Hartman. Directed by Brian Levant. Written by Randy Kornfield. Produced by Chris Columbus, Mark Radcliffe and Michael Barnathan. A Fox release. Comedy. Rated PG for action violence, mild language and some thematic elements. Running time: 89 min. Opens 11/22 wide
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